Damien Francis on Craven Cottage thrashing, winning Division One and if he’s remembered fairly
- Credit: EDP / Archant © 2004
Damien Francis spent two years at Norwich City, during that time, he won the First Division title and impressed in the Premier League.
When he signed from Wimbledon, then manager Nigel Worthington was hoping he would add dynamism to a midfield set-up that already included the tenacious Gary Holt.
His box-to-box style made him a pivotal component of the City side that gained promotion to the top-flight, but it is in the Premier League where Francis left his mark.
The former Canaries midfielder now works in player agency as he looks to utilise his experience and knowledge of playing in the professional game.
Here are some of the key quotes from our chat with the former City man:
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WINNING THE DIVISION ONE TITLE:
“I can really say that there was a great togetherness. There were no egos, and everyone was really professional. They wouldn’t hold back on digging you out if you weren’t pulling your weight, it was a good blend of players.
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“It was evident to see that there was a backbone in the club. There was an identity in the squad and in a way, it was easier for me to integrate into the squad because I was that way inclined. I wanted to win and work hard. I had accountability and, in that respect, it was a really good group.
“We hadn’t necessary spoke about what we were going to do but I remember around Christmas time, I think we were top of the league, but there were a few rumblings in the group and the boys I’d speak to said ‘we’re going to do this’. That’s when we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the goal.
“It was an amazing day and it was incredible to see how many fans came out to celebrate with us. Looking back, as a player you always want to win something and, as a young player, I was privileged to win a quite few things at youth team level but when you turn pro, that doesn’t stop and you want to win.
“I still have my medal and I can show my kids that I won something, and I have something physical I can show. What an accomplishment for the club and personally, really rewarding.
PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON:
“Even though we weren’t winning, we were still in games. It’s just about margins in the Premier League and taking your chances when they do come, or you can get punished for those. Ultimately, that’s what happened with us.
“Once we got the first win and more confidence, we were there or thereabouts. The difference between the Championship and Premier League is the margins are so much finer. You don’t get a second chance and that is what differentiates the top players from the very good players.
“We were good enough to stay up, I believe but it can be a harsh place. We all enjoyed playing in the Premier League, it’s incredible and I felt 100% at home in the Premier League. It’s the only place to play your football if you can do.
“It was a pleasing season personally, but I feel I could’ve done more. I have high standards for myself and when you look back on your career you always think ‘I should have scored this goal or done more’.
“I really enjoyed the season and I would’ve loved to stay up with Norwich, but I knew at the end of that year when we went down that I wanted to stay in the Premier League. You have to look after yourself, it’s a short career and every player aspires to play at the top level.
“A lot of people got to see what I was really about, and I got a few decent mentions. I look back on that as a really good season.”
FINAL DAY DEFEAT AT CRAVEN COTTAGE:
“It’s one of the worst days of my football career, in all aspects. One, my performance, two, the scoreline and it was a lacklustre, crappy performance. As a team, we just didn’t turn up.
“As an integral player in that team, I should have done more on that day, but football is not black or white. Of course, we would’ve loved to have won and stayed up, but we didn’t not try or anything like that. Sometimes, everything doesn’t work out in football and you can’t put a finger on exactly what it was.
“I can only speak about myself but I was carrying an injury on my foot but I was always planning to play because we needed to stay up and I wanted to do everything I could to stay on the pitch. I didn’t feel myself.
“It was an embarrassing performance. For it to fizzle out and end on that note was really hard to take. The fans, looking at it, probably thought a few players threw the towel in or weren’t trying but I take all the criticism on that day. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying, even if it looked like we weren’t trying.
“Every footballer looks back a one match they played in and think ‘wow, what a nightmare that was’ and that, for me, was mine.
“It’s possible that I’m not really revered maybe in the best light, because they’ve never really heard from me. I’ve never really said anything, I always fairly quiet anyway. I just got on with my job. Then suddenly, they’re hearing about Damien Francis leaving the club and that’s it.
“I can see why some fans may think a certain way about me, but I think most fans respected me as a footballer and the way I played. I hope they have that in their heads rather than the way things were when I left the club with them not knowing the detail or what happened in the background when I left.
“From my perspective, my two years were very positive. The fans were incredible to me and I’m really grateful for that. Football is an emotional game, it provokes emotion from people and when they see a player acting in a certain way to a club, or a player, manager; then they’re going to take the side of the club. That I understand.
“I can say that wasn’t the case when it comes to myself. It was just an unfortunate situation that I didn’t respond through press or talking. I hope I’m seen in a positive light with most fans, but you can’t please everybody. Hopefully it’s like that, when I see Norwich fans, the majority of them are pleased to see me and we speak about the good memories.”